Return to Transcripts main page
CNN International: Donald Trump Indicted; Trump Expected to Appear in Court Tuesday; Wall Streat Journal Reporter Detained on Spying Charges; Britain's King Charles' Last Day in Germany. Aired 4- 4:30a ET
Aired March 31, 2023 - 04:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANCA NOBILO, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and a warm welcome to our viewers joining us in the United States and all around the world. I'm Bianca Nobilo live from London. Max Foster is out on assignment. Ahead this hour on CNN NEWSROOM.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No one is above the law, including former presidents. And I'll be clear on that point.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It ultimately will come down to what happens in that courtroom. 12 jurors, one defendant, table of prosecutors, and if they find him guilty, he's going to be a convicted felon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For Donald, since we're talking about convicted felons, see you on Tuesday, pal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I hear another shot.
Operator: You Did?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm hearing more shots. Yes, please hurry up here. You coming?
OPERATOR: They're coming. They're coming. Just try to stay quiet. I don't know what's going on there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, be quiet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're pleased with this outcome and appreciate the judge and jury's thoughtful handling of this case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Live from London. This is CNN NEWSROOM with Max Foster and Bianca Nobilo.
NOBILO: It is Friday, March 31st, 9:00 a.m. here in London, 4:00 a.m. in New York, where a grand jury has voted to indict Donald Trump on what sources say are more than 30 counts related to business fraud. He's expected to appear at the Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday.
The grand jury has been hearing evidence about payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump.
The former president posted on Truth Social.
This is an attack on our country, the likes of which has never been seen before.
Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen went to prison for tax fraud and campaign finance violations related to the hush money payments. He says Trump should be held to the same standard.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: This isn't about vindication. This is about accountability. This is about the adage that no one is above the law. This is also about that -- whatever laws that sent me to prison, should send him to prison. We're all supposed to be looked at in the eyes of the law, the same, right. Lady justice wears the blindfold. It's not supposed to matter, you know, about your race, religion, creed color, whether your former president or not. If you break the law, you have to be held accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO: More now from CNN's senior crime and justice reporter Katelyn Polantz.
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Years of investigation and several weeks of closely watching a grand jury in New York. It's resulted in the first ever case, criminal case against a former president of the United States. Donald Trump is now charged with several criminal charges in New York related to his business empire and potential hush money payments that he may have endorsed. That we know that his personal attorney paid out to a porn star as he was running for president in 2016.
It is not exactly clear what these charges are at this time. Even Trump himself doesn't know of them. But we do know and we have confirmation tonight from both his attorneys and from the Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg that Donald Trump has been charged. He has been contacted and that he needs to get himself from Florida, where his estate is, to New York City so that he can be arrested and processed in the court system and potentially face trial.
So right now, what is happening is Trump is expected to appear on Tuesday of next week in court. He will be processed like any other criminal defendant. It may be a hectic and chaotic scene in Manhattan, either in or outside of that courthouse with a lot of additional security. But his photographs will be taken. He will be fingerprinted. He will appear before a judge. He will be read his charges and he will be able to enter a plea.
Right now, the expectation is that he will plead not guilty and progress toward trial. But that is where we are right now here in this New York case, as he faces these charges.
At the same time, there are ongoing criminal investigations that Donald Trump still faces and has not been charged in. In Georgia, a state case related to the end of his presidency. The January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, as well as two federal criminal cases that grand juries in Washington, D.C. have been actively investigating and pursuing very high-ranking witnesses to tell them their stories of what happened what they heard of, with Trump. What their interactions with the former president were like.
Those are relating both to January 6th and the keeping of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, his resort in Florida after he left the presidency. Though he hasn't been charged in those, they are quite mature investigations and Donald Trump is facing quite a lot of legal risk there that he is trying to stand down as well as he is going to be moving forward as this case progresses in New York once we finally see the charges, and it is before a judge.
Katelyn Polantz CNN Washington.
NOBILO: Donald Trump and his most vocal supporters in Congress have said very little to refute the apparent facts of this case. Instead, they argued that the indictment is politically motivated and without legal merit. Take a listen to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSAY GRAHAM (R-SC): This is legal boho. You've got a misdemeanor that's been made a felony. Nobody in the history of New York City has ever been prosecuted under this theory, except for Donald J. Trump. This case will fall like a cheap suit under legal scrutiny. Give the president some money to fight this bull****. This is going to destroy America. We're going to fight back at the ballot box. We're not going to give in. How does this end, Sean? Trump wins in court and he wins the election. That's how this wins.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO: CNN's Kristen Homes, has the latest from Washington.
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Sources close to the former president, tell us that Donald Trump and his advisers down at Mar-a-Lago were blindsided by the timing of this indictment.
Now for the last two weeks, I've been talking to a number of people close to the former president, who said they were ready for this potential indictment. Essentially, they were on pins and needles. But recent media reports saying that the grand jury was going to go on hiatus, that they wouldn't be meeting about this hush money payments case.
That made them believe that, one, they had some more time. But two, some of them, some advisers to the former president believed that maybe D.A. Alvin Bragg was actually reconsidering bringing an indictment.
So right now, they are coming back out. They have been swinging. We can see that former president Trump is on the offense. He has said that this is a witch hunt a hoax. He has blamed Democrats. He has linked Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, to Joe Biden. This was something that we expected in something we expect to see more of.
We also expect to hear from many of Trump's allies who will likely flood the airways attacking Democrats as well as attacking the grand jury and the DA himself.
Important to note, of course, that a grand jury made this decision to indict not Alvin Bragg. But that is not going to stop Trump's team from attacking him as part of their plan.
Now, the big question is how to get the former president to New York. We know there have been talks about making it some sort of media spectacle. But in reality, many of the aides and advisers we talked to said that it's really going to be up to the Secret Service and up to the NYPD what this looks like. This is an unprecedented event. You have a former U.S. president who has his own Secret Service detail coming into downtown New York. So that is what they're looking at now. How to get him in and out of the city and then what he's going to say afterwards. Who he's going to say it to and win.
Kristen Holmes, CNN Washington.
NOBILO: Another person who disagrees with the indictment is Donald Trump's former Vice President, Mike Pence. He spoke exclusively with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the unprecedented indictment a former president of the United States on a campaign finance issue, is an outrage. And it appears for millions of Americans, to be nothing more than a political prosecution that's driven by a prosecutor who literally ran for office on a pledge to indict the former president.
When you have an Attorney General in New York, and a Manhattan D.A. that targeted one particular American in their campaigns, I think that offends the notion of the overwhelming majority of the American people who believe in fairness. Who believe in equal treatment before the law. And this appears to be just one more example, Wolf, of the kind of two-tiered justice system that the American people have had enough of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO: Joining me now from Washington, CNN political commentators, Democratic strategist Maria Cardona and Republican strategist Alice Stewart. Thank you both so much for joining me this morning.
Maria let's begin with you. Just your reaction to the historical jurisprudential and political significance of this indictment.
MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, it is jaw dropping, Bianca. And I think that we all have to take a step back and wait until we understand what is actually in the indictment. I know that it is overwhelming from a -- to look at this from a political standpoint, from a historical standpoint, from a legal standpoint. But until we actually take a look and see what's in it, we can't really judge and measure what the outcome is going to be.
What we do know right now, Bianca, is that this was an indictment that didn't come from the DA Alvin Bragg, that didn't come from Democrats and liberals. It came from a grand jury that is made up of everyday, hardworking, conscientious Americans from all walks of life. Who were presented evidence from over five years of work and decided that there was more than enough to move forward with an indictment of a former president of the United States.
And the DA is not dumb. He understands that everything is on the line for him. And that he is not going to go forward with a case that he doesn't believe is absolutely completely solid.
So, all of this hype and screaming out of the top of their lungs from Republicans about how unfair this is, I think is just another attempt to let Donald Trump off the hook. They are his co-conspirators. They are people who have never held him to account. They have always been afraid to, because he they know he commands the MAGA base, which he still does. And it's shameful for them to just dismiss this out of hand without taking a look at what the actual charges are.
NOBILO: And Alice, as Maria rightly points out, there's so much that we don't know and much to digest. But can you give us a sense of the spectrum of reaction that we're seeing from Republicans at this stage?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure, and I agree with my dear friend Maria on that point. Is that we actually do need to wait and find out more details in terms of what the actual evidence is. And what are the documents? And what is the supporting information that really allows the grand jury to go forward with this indictment.
But based on what we see right now, this is not right. This is unfair, and some have even called this un-American. I've spoken with many Republicans and reading our accounts by many Republicans, and they view this as an extreme overreach by political opponent of Donald Trump. And you can't get much more polar opposite in the Republican Party right now than former President Trump and his chief 2024 rival Ron DeSantis. And both of them have a similar take on this.
Donald Trump, his response to this was this is a weaponization of the justice system in order to attack a political rival. Ron DeSantis, the Governor of Florida, says this is a weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda.
That is how Republicans are seeing this and there is no way you're going to change their minds. This is what Donald Trump is saying. This is what his friends in the media are saying. And this trickles down to members of Congress are fully in step with this line of thinking. Because they are seeing it for what it is.
And this is DA that ran and campaigned on saying that this case would be a top priority for him. And this case, which was passed over by the Federal Election Commission, as well as the Department of Justice, because they didn't see this was worth moving forward on. He take it -- took it upon himself to move forward and he is a strong Democrat. This will be in -- go before a jury and in a very liberal district in New York. And many Republicans view this as nothing more than an attempt to prevent Donald Trump from moving forward in 2024.
I hate to say this to them. This is going to embolden his supporters. And look, as a Republican who would love nothing more than Donald Trump to leave the political arena so we can nominate someone that is less toxic than him. I would just love nothing more to see him leave. This is going to embolden him, and I fear it will help him in the primary process. But again, this will be detrimental in a general election.
NOBILO: And Maria, taking into consideration what Alice is saying there about emboldening Trump supporters and also the most influential figures in the Republican Party adding their weight to these claims that this is a political witch hunt. How concerned are you about increased political acrimony, possibly demonstrations or even violence resulting from this?
CARDONA: Oh absolutely, incredibly concerned about that, Bianca. And the sad part about that is Republicans not only don't seem to care, but they are -- they are -- they are pouring fuel on that fire, starting with Donald Trump. Who is the one who called for protests. Who is the one who talked about death and destruction if this indictment came down.
Who is the one, let's remember, who was the one who emboldened the insurgency that happened on January 6th.
And by the way, let's see when that indictment comes down and let's see if Republicans also try to put that aside, saying that that is just strictly political.
You know, Donald Trump is in a world of legal hurt. And the more that Republicans try to make sure that he is -- continues to be off the hook that could continue -- that the more that they try to make excuses for him saying that this is a witch hunt. Well, you know what a witch hunt is actually appropriate when there is a witch. And Donald Trump is the one who brought all of this onto himself.
And if you look at Michael Cohen, the one who actually went to jail for doing everything that Trump told him to do in this case, the one that that is the coming down with this indictment, you know, he talked about how everything that he did, he did because Donald Trump told him to do that. And let's remember that he went to jail under the Justice Department of Donald Trump.
And so all of these issues are the same issues that are alive and well in this and indictment. Sources say that there are more than 30 charges in that indictment. And again. I want to remind my good friend Alice, this was not something that Alvin Bragg decided to indict on. He's simply put together the grand jury, presented the evidence. And this is a grand jury made up of conscientious everyday Americans who saw that evidence. They are not Democrats. They are not liberals. They are not anti-Trumpers. They are everyday Americans doing their job.
Looked at this evidence and said, yes, there is more than enough here to move forward. And you know what else, Bianca, you know what else? This process has proven that no one is above the law, not even a former president of the United States.
NOBILO: Well, Alice Stewart and Maria Cardona, I wish we had more time to talk specifically on that last point in the effect this is having on Americans perceptions of their own constitution and themselves. The fact that someone running for president can be facing criminal charges but thank you both so much.
CARDONA: Thank you so much, Bianca.
NOBILO: Another American is in Russian custody right now. This time, a correspondent for "The Wall Street Journal" who was based in Moscow. Evan Gershkovich is accused of spying. Russia's main security service, the FSB, says that he was trying to obtain state secrets. He was taken into custody in Yekaterinburg and a Russian court says that he will be detained until late May. "The Wall Street Journal" is owned by News Corp and Dow Jones, which says that it's working around the clock to secure Gershkovich's release.
The Dow Jones chief executive called the arrest an extremely disturbing development and said that we also vehemently deny the claims made by Russian officials. The White House is also denouncing the arrest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This espionage charges are ridiculous. The targeting of American citizens by Russian government is unacceptable. We condemn the detention of Mr. Gershkovich in the strongest, in the strongest terms. We also condemn the Russian government's continued targeting and repression of journalists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO: This arrest ratchets up already high tensions between Russia and the U.S. CNN's Matthew Chance reports from Moscow.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): News of the arrest was brief on Russian state television. The reporter from the "Wall Street Journal" was arrested on suspicion of espionage for the United States, the news anchor announces. Evan Gershkovich, he reads now faces 20 years in prison.
He was in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, 1,100 miles from Moscow that Russia's federal security service, the former KGB, say they terminated the illegal activity of the accredited journalist. They claim he was on a mission from America to accumulate classified evidence on Russia's military industrial complex.
At a brief court appearance in Moscow, the case was designated top secret. And the 31-year-old journalist, was remanded in custody for nearly two months.
A lawyer trying to represent Gershkovich says he was excluded from the proceedings.
DANIIL BERMAN, LAWYER (through translator): I don't know how long it took, three or 15 minutes, and that's it. After that, I assume Evan has already been taken away from here. We don't know anything.
CHANCE (voice-over): The arrest comes against the backdrop of appalling U.S.-Russia relations. With Washington leading international support for Ukraine against Russia's invasion.
Has already one U.S. citizens jailed in Russia too for espionage, Paul Whelan. Detained in 2018 serving a 16-year sentence. And it's been just a few months since U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner imprisoned in Moscow on contentious drug charges, was swapped for notorious arms smuggler Viktor Bout held for years in U.S. jail.
The Russian foreign ministry says there's no question of another prisoner swap at this time.
The "Wall Street Journal" says it vehemently denies the allegations against their reporter and say they're seeking his immediate release. But Russian officials are doubling down.
MARIA ZAKHAROVA, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON (through translator): Under the cover of journalism, this person was involved in a completely different activity. There are lots of reports that he had accreditation, therefore he's a journalist. No, no, no. This is what he claims to be.
CHANCE: It does not bode well for a case threatening to plunge U.S.- Russian relations to new depths and to ruin the life of this young American reporter.
Matthew Chance, CNN Moscow. (END VIDEOTAPE)
NOBILO: CNN's Scott McLean is closely following this story. And Scott, this is the first time since the Cold War that we've seen an American journalists accused of spying by Russia. What do we know?
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this story is remarkable for its rarity, first and foremost. This is the first time that an American journalist in Russia has been arrested on espionage charges since 1986 since the Cold War, since before the breakup of the Soviet Union.
And so, in that case, the journalists who was arrested his name was Nick Daniloff, he worked for "U.S. News and World Report," and he actually spent only a matter of weeks behind bars rather than months or years. And he said after his release that were it not for the intervention and in his words, very deep and personal interest of then President Ronald Reagan, he would have spent a heck of a lot more time in there. And key to his release was the prisoner swamp of a Russian who had been recently arrested in New York on espionage -- on espionage charges there.
The timing in this Gershkovich case is quite interesting because it was less than a week ago, actually, that the U.S. announced it had formally charged a Russian citizen with spying -- with espionage. He was using a fake Brazilian identity to attend university in Washington, D.C. One potential wrinkle there is that this man isn't actually in U.S. custody right now. He's actually in Brazilian custody where he had been arrested on fraud charges there.
The Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, he was asked about this yesterday when he was asked whether this was a tit-for-tat or this was retaliation. He said he didn't have anything to say. But in previous answers, he had said that, look, in his view, Gershkovich had been caught red handed. The Russian foreign ministry also said that at this point it is far too early to talk about any kind of a prisoner swap, prisoner exchange.
If you ask the family of Paul Whelan, of course, another American who has been arrested on espionage charges, he spent more than four years behind bars. And, frankly, a statement from his brother yesterday didn't seem all that optimistic about his prospects. Saying, quote, it doesn't seem that the White House does not seem to have found a way to resolve cases like Paul Whelan's of people who are arrested for spying.
NOBILO: Scott McLean, thank you so much.
MCLEAN: You bet.
NOBILO: Coming up, Britain's King Charles makes history during his trip to Germany. We're live in Hamburg as he concludes his first state visit as monarch.
Plus, signs of progress as Pope Francis remains in the hospital receiving treatment for respiratory infection. We'll update you on the 86-year-old pontiff's health. [04:25:00]
NOBILO: Welcome back. Britain's King Charles is closing out his inaugural state visit to Germany. Yesterday he became the first British monarch to address the German Parliament. Charles and Queen Consort Camilla will travel to Hamburg today. And CNN's royal correspondent Max Foster joins me now live from that very place. Max overall, how has this trip gone? Has it given us any clues into how King Charles is going to handle his reign.
MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've got some pictures just coming in I think of Charles is about to arrive at Berlin station and then head here to Hamburg. This is a city pretty much bombed out during the World War II and he's going to be reflecting a lot of that. He's going to go to a monument in recognition of Kindertransport. The children who were sent to England to get to safety really, from the Second World War, also a church that was bombed out. So, he's going to reflect on a lot of that.
At the time, of course, Britain and Germany were adversaries. Now they're very much working together on issues like Ukraine. And it's been seen as very positive trip from both governments I think who see this as a way of deepening relationships between the two countries. A big honor for King Charles to speak yesterday of the German Parliament, the first British monarch to do so whilst the Parliament was in session.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING CHARLES III: This essential partnership between our two countries is built on the expertise, dedication and ingenuity of countless people in both Germany and the United Kingdom.
KING CHARLES III (through translator): Together we must be vigilant against threats to our values and freedoms and resolute in our determination to confront them. Together we must strive for the security, prosperity and well being that our people deserve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: Big response to his German speaking there, Bianca, so obviously they could all understand him. Pretty good effort there. Also, I think, you know, the rain really celebrating the bonds between the U.K. and Germany as well. He brought that, lots of umbrellas.
He's about to go out and meet some crowds. We'll wait to see how many are out and about because obviously the weather's going to put a few people off. But when he has been meeting crowd so far, there has been a good response. Not huge crowds, but lots of great positivity. He's seen here, not just as, you know, the head of state of the U.K., He's also seen as a green pioneer. So, a lot of people coming out to sort of pay tribute to that side of his work as well.
NOBILO: And speaking of umbrellas. Not only has Max been doing his characteristic brilliant reporting from Germany, but you can also look at his Twitter and see him being attacked by a brolly yesterday. So, something for everyone. Max Foster in Hamburg. Thank you so much.
FOSTER: Thank you.